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Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates preview, Monday 9/24, 7:05 CT

The Cubs open their final homestand of 2018.

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Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Notes as we enter the final regular-season week of 2018, and the Cubs look to reduce the magic clinching number from five:

  • The Cubs have a .635 home winning percentage (47-27), the best home record in the N.L. and fourth best in the majors behind only the Red Sox (54-21, .720), the Yankees (53-28, .654) and Rays (48-26, .649). The Cubs have won 16 of their last 24 home games dating to July 25. Also, the Cubs are the only MLB team to win 90+ games each of the last four seasons.
  • The Cubs are 21-11 against N.L. Central teams at Wrigley Field this season, a .656 winning percentage that exceeds their overall N.L. best home mark.
  • The Cubs enter this week as one of only five teams with seven home games remaining. The others: Rockies, Twins, Mariners, Rays.
  • With Cole Hamels’ start tonight, the Cubs will set a new franchise record with 90 games started by a left-handed pitcher in a single season. The previous record of 89 was set by the 1966 Cubs (Dick Ellsworth, 37, Ken Holtzman, 33, Curt Simmons, 10, Bob Hendley, 6, Rich Nye, 2 and Dave Dowling, 1). The Cubs will have at least two more LH starts, by Mike Montgomery on Tuesday and Jon Lester on Thursday, to extend the record. (H/T: Ed Hartig)
  • The Cubs bullpen has posted a 3.33 ERA this season, the lowest bullpen ERA in the National League. The Diamondbacks are a distant second at 3.52. The Cubs pen has limited opponents to a .658 OPS against, also lowest in the National League, and their .344 opponents slugging percentage is by far the lowest in the majors. The Astros are a distant second at .357.

Here are today’s particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Pirates lineup:

Cole Hamels, LHP vs. Jameson Taillon, RHP

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Hamels had his worst start as a Cub in his last outing against the Diamondbacks, although “worst” was really just one awful inning in which he allowed five hits, four runs and a three-run homer. The rest of that start wasn’t terrible.

The better news is that Hamels has already made two starts against the Pirates this year and has held them to eight hits and one unearned run in 12 innings with 12 strikeouts. The only Pirate who’s had any real success against him is Starling Marte (10-for-20, a double, a home run). Hold him down and the rest of the current Bucs are hitting just .172 (10-for-58) against him.

Jameson Taillon has finally shown the potential that got him selected by the Pirates with the second overall pick in 2010 (Chris Sale and Christian Yelich were picked after him in that first round, among others). Taillon has had injuries that have held him back, but he’s been really good this year.

This includes an excellent outing against the Cubs August 19 at PNC Park, where he allowed just one run in six innings, a solo homer by Kyle Schwarber, back in the day when the Cubs were doing that solo homer and no other runs thing in five straight games.

Since that start Taillon’s been excellent: 1.69 ERA, 0.938 WHIP in five starts covering 32 innings, with only four walks in that span. He’s also allowed four home runs in those five starts, so there’s that.

Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago.

Here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

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The 2018 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used during 2017. Here’s how it works.

You’ll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).

At the same time, a StoryStream containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream “Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads” so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.

You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked “Chicago Cubs Game Threads” at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game’s StoryStream as noted above.

The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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